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Category Archives: Fictional Writing

An Excerpt from THE ELEMENTS Book I

Friends,

Today I wanted to share a brief excerpt from Book I of my upcoming, alternative Earth fantasy – THE ELEMENTS, which I began in 2003 after seeing the news coverage of the beginnings of the war in Iraq. I have talked about my fictional writing mostly on my website, but I wanted to share some it with you all. Enjoy! 
Zuri, the flesh must be divided evenly,” instructed Leena, pointing to her too generous cuts of the meat given to them by the recently returned warriors. 

 “You mean less the largest portion which goes to the Queen,” The young woman stopped cutting the flesh in front of her, took a deep breath and started dividing the portions already cut into smaller pieces.

 “I hear she doesn’t even eat it,” said another.

 “She doesn’t. She doesn’t like the meat from wild beasts and says that it smells bad. I tell her that it’s all of the meat we have now. She just drinks the muthi and makes me take the stew away most days– I give it to the those in need of it,” said Olufemi. 

 “You give it to Wasswa,” teased Nia as she walked by Olufemi carrying a basket full of fruit that somehow she had to divide between so many. 

 “We give the best to the King’s family while the people are starving. It isn’t enough and it never is,” said Olufemi. 

 “You can ignore me all you want Olufemi but I see the way he looks at you…and you he,”

 “He is a warrior and I am a servant, bound to the king and his family. These eyes wander no further than the Queen’s izindlu,” said Olufemi without looking up from her task.

 “We do as we are told and we are lucky to have this much meat. The days of hunger will end and we will have rain again. King Nkosana has shared this from the ancestors, that we will suffer for a short time and the Kishnu will kneel at our feet. It is prophesy!”

 “Yes, Leena of course,” said Olufemi, nodding her head in agreement.

 “Leena, you are old and sound just like the King. Do you have any thoughts that are your own? I’m tired of the prophesy and I want to eat everyday. I’m tired of hearing about the ancestors, what about the living? Why can’t we till the soil or go fishing in the sea for ourselves? Why must only Nkosana provide?!” asked Nia for the third time since the last rain.

 Without warning, the elder cook rushed to the girl, raised her right hand up above her,slapping her left cheek with so much force the girl staggered backwards. All of the others stood where they were, speechless. The young cook’s pride alone was enough of a dam to keep tears from her face. She raised her hands to the left side of her face for a moment, then dropped them and faced Leena as if she was ready to strike her back. 

 “Nkosana comes from a line of kings too great in number for you to count, child. He has always provided us with food even when the land refuses to. We don’t have to sweat in the hot sun or suffer the dangers at sea like Kishnu women – faces painted black, climbing trees,weapons in hand like men, with not a trace of themselves left recognizable, except for bosoms. Your tongue is a young child running ahead, beyond the reach of your father’s spear, into the jaws of a lion. Our duty is to prepare the food given to us by our king. Never again let Nkosana’s name pass your lips unless followed by praise or gratitude!”

Nia, wait! Don’t leave!” yelled Olufemi as the girl turned and rushed out of the room so quickly a breeze tickled each of them.

 “I’ll go after her,” announced Olufemi while cleansing her hands with water from a potjiepot in front of her.

 “No. There’s too much work to be done and every hand is needed. She wants you to come after her as you always do when she’s in trouble. Leave her to her anger. It will have abandoned her by night fall,”

Leena, she’s my sister. She is young and needs me. Let me go to her. I’ll bring her back to finish the cooking,”said Olufemi.

 Leena turned to Olufemi and embraced one of her shoulders by extending one of her arms.

Olufemi, you’re loyal to your sister and that is good, but now your duty to Lungizwe requires your loyalty. You cannot share it. Let her be,”

 “Yes, she’ll be fine. She always is,” said Olufemi with a faint smile. By now the others were listening but had returned to their respective duties. Leena and Olufemi returned to theirs, all in silence.

 

Excerpt from THE ELEMENTS Book I Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. www.theelementsbooks.com

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Posted by on May 20, 2013 in Fictional Writing

 

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Top 10 Storytelling Cliches Writers Need To Stop Using

I thoroughly enjoyed this list. Some things were news to me but most I know of & avoid like the plague in my own writing. This is from columnist Rob W. Hart on Lit Reactor. Writers pay attention:

rob-w-hartCliché is the enemy of good writing. 

We, as writers, are trained to kill clichéd phrases in sentences. But that’s not the only place they can hide—they can infect the spaces between the words, too.

Clichés can infect storytelling techniques.

Need to build some tension? Have a time bomb with a digital readout slowly ticking down to zero!

Is your narrator a dick? Blame it on abusive parents!

Want to get all writerly in conveying the plot? Put it in a dream!

These are storytelling devices that pop up again and again, crutches for the writer to lean on and help move the story along without actually having to stretch their abilities. What follows are, to my mind, the worst of the bunch. 

1. Characters describing themselves in mirrors

Why it’s easy: Describing a character when you’re writing in the third person is pretty easy when the narrative voice is omniscient. But first person is a bit of a challenge—how do you convey what your character looks like without making them sound vain and self-obsessed? Wait, how about using a mirror!?

Why it’s a cop out: It’s lazy, it’s been done to death, and anyway, no one looks in a mirror and takes stock of all their features in severe detail. I would argue you don’t need to belabor the description of your main character anyway. You can hit the big points—if your character’s defining trait is a deformity or a hairstyle—there are ways to work that into the narrative. For the rest of if, you have to trust the reader. First that they don’t need to be coddled, and second, that they’ll project something onto the character. 

2. Broadcasting an upcoming plot twist

Why it’s easy: Sometimes you need to give a little weight to a character who’s been sitting around and doing nothing, or make sure the reader is on his or her toes. What’s wrong at a little hint at things to come?  

Why it’s a cop out: This is the “little did he know” principle of storytelling. In The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown, toward the end of the book, the albino monk is captured by the story’s heroes. And it says—I’m paraphrasing here—something like: “Little did he know that he’d soon turn the tables.” Leading me to ask: Why would you broadcast a plot twist? Especially in a book that’s classified as a thriller?! Dan Brown isn’t the only author to commit this crime. It’s just the first example to come to me. 

3. Blaming bad behavior on bad parenting

Why it’s easy: It’s hard to justify bad behavior. If your narrator is a dick, you still want him/her to be a redeemable dick, or at least someone damaged enough that their dickishness isn’t so far-fetched. You know what makes people into dicks that you can’t really question, you just have to accept? Bad parents! 

Why it’s a cop out: Almost every fucked-up character in fiction can trace his or her issues back to being sexually abused or slapped around by parental units. Making the parents into monsters is an easy way to explain away bad behavior. It’s too easy. The thing is, sometimes this can be profound or deeply affecting. But a lot of the time, the bad parents are there for the sake of it. You know what’s scarier? Someone growing up in a normal household and still becoming a dick.  

4. Too many inside jokes/references

Why it’s easy: Because you need to make sure everyone knows you watched The Big Lebowski. 

Why it’s a cop out: Few things stop me as cold in a story as an inside joke or a belabored reference. We get it. You’re funny and you watch cool stuff. But I would need two hands and both feet to count the amount of times I’ve read references to rugs that tied the room together. Writing for your friends, or for your own ego, is a sure way to alienate a reader. 

5. The chosen one

Why it’s easy: Your hero isn’t just special. He/she has been chosen by some higher force! 

Why it’s a cop out: Characters can be special without being touched by the hand of fate. And anyway, if your character is the only person who can solve a given problem, does that make him/her heroic? Or just easily coerced? They have no choice but to be heroic, and that’s not really heroism. Very rarely is this trope used well. Most of the time… it’s not.  

To continue reading this hilarious & informative piece, please click HERE!

 
 

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Book Review: ‘River of Stars’ A sweeping saga of a swordsman and a poetess

Friends,

ROSOccasionally, I come across a book review written so well, that it causes a curiosity within me so strong, that I must let my fingers do the “walking” to my favorite website & purchase the novel & read it immediately.(Note that such a review need not be favorable to be well-written per se, although this one is.) Author, editor & book reviewer for the Seattle Times Nisi Shawl has written such a review and I wanted to share it with you all. I have shared here, on my website & throughout social media my thoughts on the importance of book reviews, so I’m always excited to share great ones, as I look for new books to spend my hard-earned money on & read.

This book’s plot is fascinating to me because I love the overall fantasy genre but get tired of the same old archetypes. I’m always looking for books to read, that don’t have elves, a dark lord, a farm boy who doesn’t realize he’s “the one” or talking non-human characters, so I am so looking forward to this. The review is of Guy Gavriel Kay’s RIVER OF STARSGuy Gavriel Kay is a Canadian author of fantasy fiction. Many of his novels are set in fictional realms that resemble real places during real historical periods. Kay has written over 10 novels and numerous shorter works. His works have been translated into 22 languages, and have sold over two million copies. Nisi Shawl has been reviewing fiction for the Seattle Times for nearly 12 years & I thoroughly enjoy her erudite analysis of the works of so many authors. Here is the review:

Why would a white man want to write an epic fantasy based on Chinese history? Why would he do so twice?

In the case of award-winning Toronto author Guy Gavriel Kay, the answer could be, “Because he can.” “River of Stars,” (Roc, 576 pp., $26.95), the follow-up to Kay’s acclaimed “Under Heaven,” takes place in Kitai, a land closely modeled on China. Set during a period mirroring the centuries-long Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE, as “Under Heaven” mirrored the Tang Dynasty of 618-907 CE), “River of Stars” tells the intertwining stories of a swordsman and a poetess. Not the most iconoclastic pairing for this milieu, but Ren Daiyan and Lin Shan are fully realized characters rather than the shadows those labels suggest.

Beginning with Ren’s sudden understanding that the bandits he confronts as a boy may hold the key to his future — that he needs to live in their midst rather than fight against them — the novel takes several surprising turns. Yet though the plot is blessedly unpredictable, its hero is no inscrutable warrior type: Ren is motivated by understandable emotions born of a culture well described. Brilliant, stubborn, loyal, daring, he does what he must. But his tasks are often determined by chance and other elements beyond his control, elements he as a character and we as readers recognize only in hindsight.

Lin Shan is a woman brought up by her idealistic father to break the far-too-­restrictive mold defining her sex. Through his characters’ unobtrusive reflections, Kay carefully differentiates the ways changing eras affect the roles of upper-class women. Whether she and her father travel to take part in a far city’s celebrated peony festival or to visit a country gentleman, the mores of the Song Dynasty dictate that Lin must stay in their destination’s women’s quarters; she must dress so as not to incite lust, must remain virgin till her wedding night and so on. Her literacy, while not forbidden, is viewed as eccentric.

To continue reading this review, please click HERE.

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2013 in Book Reviews, Fictional Writing

 

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If I Could Give New Writers Advice, I’d Start With…

I’ll cut to the chase:

1. READ, READ, READ – You learn from the great writers. For dialogue I learned from Hemingway, figurative language from Richard Wright & to name a contemporary author, Janet Fitch. The point is that certain authors have certain strengths & you can learn from them by reading, from Shakespeare to The Odyssey to Zora Neale Hurston. READ!

2. WRITE, WRITE, WRITE – I have observed many writers focusing on marketing, discussions on social media about writing, illustrations, maps, plot synopsis (over & over again) – just write the book already. Write it without continuously editing it as you write (even I have trouble with this). Get it out of you, then worry about other things. Marketing is meaningless if you wrote & published a crappy book.

3. Find a great, supportive but honest critique group. Develop thick skin. If you put out a sample chapter for people to read be ready for any level of criticism. Do you want people to lie to you & pat you on the back or help you make it better? Decide. If you want the lie, please don’t ever ask me to critique your work. Also, give & take in critique groups. In other words, you should not be receiving more critiques than you give. It should be balanced.  Nothing annoys me more in critique groups than members who always want others to read/critique their work but never do the same for others.  The basic Golden Rule principle comes to mind here. Scribophile is a wonderful site for having your excerpts critiqued because they work on a karma point system & you can’t present your work to others unless you first gain karma points by helping other writers first.

4. DO NOT under ANY circumstances, publish a book that has only been edited by you, no matter how good you think you are. You’ll never catch all of your own errors.Some editors don’t catch every single error. Hire a good editor who is able to give you references & is familiar with your genre. It is my personal opinion that editing speculative fiction (for example) is different from other genres, so I advise getting an editor who has worked with authors in the genre you are writing in. Everyone may not agree with that and yet, the world turns. Don’t go for the “full editorial services for $99-$199” type of people – no serious, credible editor will edit an entire manuscript for so little money because it’s not worth their time – it’s a scam that too many writers fall for. Real editors don’t troll & spam potential clients to the point of ad nauseam, clients come to them.For those cheap prices, they’ll do little more than a spell check, which you can do yourself.

5. If you don’t have the money to pay for editing, wait until you do to publish the book or present it to literary agents and/or publishers. The same can be applied to self-publishing.Now some will disagree with that, citing the fact that an agent or publisher could see potential & offer a contract, even if the manuscript is not perfect. While they might have a point, I say, if you care about your work, you invest in it to polish it as if you only have one shot. If you are in the one percent of querying writers whose partial and/or full manuscript is requested (keywords: one percent), it needs to be error free as much as possible.  Why would an agent or publisher choose your story with errors when Jane Doe submitted a story in the same genre with an equally compelling plot & proper editing? You are competing with every other writer for the coveted 1%. It amazes me how many writers think that if they just put the book out there without professional editing (usually for .99) it will catch on. They think it will sell enough copies to pay for the editing for the sequel or make them rich. Shullbit. Amanda Hocking’s story is rare & most .99 books don’t turn writers into millionaires. Most regularly priced books don’t turn writers into millionaires.Get an extra job, ask your family for the money, sell an egg…or sperm, start cutting grass for $$$. Don’t sell crystal meth in a basement lab in your home. Or, do what I did – I raised money via Indiegogo. Fellow writer Dianne Gardner is doing the same via Kickstarter now. It’s worth the wait.

I’ll be back next week with more advice for writers.

#myrantfortheday

Consevative blogger Talitha McEachin

Talitha “TK” McEachin

TK McEachin is a political/cultural blogger and up & coming writer of fiction. Her first novel, THE ELEMENTS is the first in an epic fantasy series.To learn more about her fictional projects visit www.theelementsbooks.com. You may donate to her campaign on the home page as well, if you missed the deadline for her fundraising campaign.

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2013 in Fictional Writing

 

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Excellent post! Writers pay attention!

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 7.55.29 AM

One of the reasons I encourage writers to blog and to read blogs is that you will find inspiration all around you. A dear friend of mine, Steve Tobak, has a MASSIVE blog following and is the business blogger for CBS, Fox Business and Inc.

I love reading his posts about entrepreneurs because so much applies to authors (we are entrepreneurs of a different sort, but still entrepreneurs). The other day, he had a post called 7 Things Confident Leaders Don’t Do, and I am going to take the liberty of retooling this for writers.

In a world full of wanna-be best-sellers, confident writers don’t:

1. Do What Everyone Else is Doing

Find your own voice and tell your own story. Don’t write to the market. Find the publishing path that works for you. If self-publishing works for you, your budget and your personality, great. The stigma is fading…

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Toni Morrison Becomes the 1st Author to Host a Digital Book Signing

Toni MorrisonToni Morrison once again makes history, this time as being the first author to host a digital book signing via Google Hangout. She is the author of novels such as The Bluest Eye, BelovedJazz and many others, including her newest book, Home. The award winning author has received such honors as the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the coveted Nobel Prize for Literature. Additionally, she is currently the last American to date, to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Ms. Morrison was live from the New York Google office to talk with fans about her latest novel, Home. Her latest novel tells the story of Frank Money, a 24-year-old African-American veteran of the Korean War, and his journey home a year after being discharged from an integrated Army, into a segregated homeland. A few lucky fans got the privilege of speaking directly with the author via live video streaming, asking a question they submit ahead of time, selected by Google. The questions were wonderful and her answers even better. I especially liked the question regarding banned books of hers. Ms. Morrison also literally digitally signed the e-books of those who joined her on the panel using the Google technology. It was a delight to see her & hear her poignant answers to questions. I look forward to seeing more authors using this technology via the Google Hangout. Here is the video (the event lasted only 23 minutes) if you missed it:

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2013 in Fictional Writing

 

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Writing: Author Dianne Gardner on “Magic” in Fiction

Dragon ShieldMagic!
Fantasy stories have magic and so do mine.
But what exactly is magic?

Dictionary definitions
the art of producing illusions as entertainment by the use of sleight of hand, deceptive devices, etc.;legerdemain; conjuring: to pull a rabbit out of a hat by magic.

OR

the art of producing a desired effect or result through the use of incantation or various other techniques that presumably assure human control of supernatural agencies or the forces of nature. Compare contagious magic, imitative magic, sympathetic magic. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/magic?s=t
Human control of supernatural agencies or forces of nature…exactly what the Dragon Shield does for its bearers. If you’ve read my short stories A Tale of the Four Wizards, especially about the Wizard Kaempie, you know that the young conjurer gave up certain powers that he possessed to The Northern Winds as a sacrifice so that the wicked queen Hacatine, who had been seeking to strip him of his power, could not destroy the peoples of the Realm.

Say’s the young conjurer,

If I relinquish my magic to the one force that she cannot conquer, then she’ll never possess it. Never. It will always work against her. –Kaempie A Tale of the Four Wizards

The Wind, being a power of great good, used Kaempie’s contribution to create The Songs of Wisdom. It’s these songs that the children sing which activates the power of the Dragon Shield.

It’s not something the tribal people learn overnight. They must experience some tragic mistakes, sit down and listen to the elders, and accept their people’s tradition before they can take advantage of the benefits of this magic.

In the Dragon Shield, Ian finds himself in the midst of that learning curve, and he too becomes wiser for it.

Where did I get all this besides from my insanely busy imagination?

Well, I don’t really like to think about my stories as being allegories. But on the other hand, I’m a Christian and I believe in a loving Creator that gave mankind a redeeming power (his Son) that, when called on, can save him from any evil the devil (or the world) would thrust at us.

So the Songs of Wisdom and the melody of the Dragon Shield, which is sung by innocent children, creates an aura that keep darkness at bay, and has the power to heal.

Magic, yes. But it could, if you’re looking for it, speak of something more phenomenal.

Dgardner

 

 

 

 
The second installment of the Ian’s Realm Saga The Dragon Shield expounds on the magic of the Realm. For readers wanting to know more, the short stories The Dragon Shield shows us how the native people use that magic as a form of protection.

 

Follow Dianne Gardner on her website & throughout social media:

Publisher’s website: http://www.hydrapublications.com/shop/deception-peak/

Official book blog: http://dragontargeseries.blogspot.com/

Dragon Shield Trailer 

website http://gardnersart.com

Facebook :Dianne Gardner

Twitter @DianneGardner

Author Central on Amazon

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2013 in Featured Guest blogs, Fictional Writing

 

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